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Coates, Robert

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This colourful and eccentric personality was born on Antigua in 1772, the son of Alexander Coates, a wealthy sugar-planter. All eight of Robert’s siblings died in infancy, so upon the death of his father, he inherited a substantial fortune, including a large collection of diamonds. He took himself to England, where he settled in Bath and began to live in grand style. His carriage, drawn by white horses, was shaped like a kettledrum and bore the motto ‘Whilst I live I’ll crow.’ On 9 February 1810 he made his debut upon the Bath stage as Romeo, and thus earned the nickname ‘Romeo Coates.’ Among other names, he became known as ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo Coates’ and ‘the Amateur of Fashion.’ He appeared in London in 1811 as Lothario in “The Fair Penitent”, and later as Romeo, prompting Charles Mathews to ridicule him in his ‘At Home’ performances as Romeo Rantall. Coates made appearances in other English towns, but was seen mainly at Bath until audiences grew tired of his antics. His acting, according to most accounts, was very bad. Eventually he squandered his fortune and was forced to flee to Boulogne, where he married. Coming to terms with his creditors, he returned to London, and while leaving a concert at Drury Lane on 15 February 1848 he was crushed between two carriages and died on 21 February at his residence in Montague Square. (DNB)
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